The Living Rug Company- handmade in the Peak District
With the tag line "Beautiful Handmade Felted Rugs, Yarn and Accessories No Skin Just Wool... and Love", this Peak District product is both luxurious and heartfelt.
We sat down with the Living Rig Company's owner and official shepherdess, Deborah Griffith for a chat to get to know a little more...
So, Deborah, Tell us about The Living Rug Company...
My company is a small business based in a remote part of the Peak District that makes felted fleece rugs, home accessories and yarn from my flock. The flock has a home for life on my farm which consists of 58 sheep which is made up of some rare breeds and some commercial breeds. At least half of the flock has been saved from slaughter. I also want to show that there is a bit more to sheep than just lamb chops through the pictures that I take.
How did you start? Was it a difficult business to get off the ground?
It all started because of my sheep. I am a vegetarian and had an idea that I would like to sell wool items that were suitable for vegetarians/vegans and in fact anyone who likes wool. I wanted something a bit different so I searched the Internet looking for ideas.
I came across an ideal product which is very popular in the Netherlands but is hardly known of in the UK. It was a perfect product - a vegetarian sheepskin rug. It's like any company when you first start: your ideas develop as you go along. When I first discovered the art of felting, I really thought it was so highly skilled that it would be beyond me. I approached several felting designers and 'felters' with the idea of felting some of my fleeces. I had a couple of people who were interested and who did felt some for me. However, it was costing far too much and I knew I would never be able to sell at the prices they were charging me. So one afternoon, I watched a video on Youtube on felting and had a go myself. I was really pleased with the result and found it very satisfying and really not that hard to do. At first, the business was very slow and a bit disheartening. I designed and got my website up and running then I started looking into maybe getting some advertising in some magazines when I read an article about using social media for your business and started with a page on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. As soon as I started on Instagram I had sold 3 rugs in one month. So as yet I have not had to use any traditional advertising which is great.
Describe your average day at the farm:
Typically my day starts about 4.30am - 5.00am: I have always been an early riser. I start the day by making tea and toast for myself and my husband and feeding our 3 cats. I spend the next hour sorting out all my social media posting pictures etc. At 6.00am I go outside to walk and feed our 4 dogs. Next, it's time to feed the horses. Depending on the time of year I may have to feed the sheep as well. I will go around and check all the sheep and horses and make sure they are OK. My husband & kids normally leave for work about 6.30am - 7.00am so if I am around I get to say goodbye. I am normally back in the house about 8.00am to catch up with household chores. I have a quick cup of coffee then I am back outside taking care of any jobs that need doing around the farm which are seasonal and innumerable: they can range from harrowing the fields to mucking out sheds, trimming sheep's feet, tidying up the farm etc. In between all of this I sometimes make a rug as well especially if the weather is wet. The rugs are very time-consuming and some can take up to a day to make. If I have time in the afternoon I will take a few pictures for my blog etc and before I know it, it's time to get dinner ready for the family's return. Before bed, which is normally about 9ish I will tend to the social media again and maybe review and select some of the photos I have taken that day. I sleep like a log!
Tell us about the process of making one of your rugs:
It starts with a really good fleece which needs to be sheared in one piece and ideally from an animal which is calm. When we have the sheep sheared I carefully fold the fleece so I don’t pull the fibres. I lay the fleece on a large table and sort through the fleece looking for dirt or bits of hay/straw. I turn the fleece over and cover with carded wool. Then I start the process of felting using my hand and hot water and soap and work the carded wool into the fleece to make a new skin. This process can take a long time depending on the size of the fleece. Then I roll the fleece for a long time until it is felted. This involves walking a rolled fleece on the ground many, many times. In fact, I have been known to get the horses to help! Then, using a very large bath, I wash the fleece rug, sometimes as many as four times to get the fleece clean. Then I leave to dry. I then package with care instructions, a brief story of the sheep and some hand-drawn artwork which someone does for me, or some photos. My customers are usually very keen to know their rug comes from an animal which is still alive, well...and loved.
What’s your favourite/most inspirational part of the Peak District?
I just love the wide range of scenery from the wild moors down to the beautiful meadows. It really is a photographer's heaven. I also love the fantastic little towns and villages and being so central to everything the Peak District has to offer. I also love the extremely remote part of the world we live in. We're at nearly 1,400 feet (425m) and have a 'trig' point at the top of the drive. When we get the snow, we can get stuck for weeks. I have to send pictures to people in the much warmer towns to prove it's as bad as it is.